Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 22nd 2013 Contents A63
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Sleep. For some, it s an intense love affair.
For others, it s as elusive as a black cat in the
dead of night. For me, when I m busy, I wish
I did not have to sleep, so that I could get
more things accomplished. However, under-
standing that I would actually accomplish
less if I deprive myself of this vital activity,
I grudgingly stick to my bedtime in order to
get between 7-8 hours sleep.
I maintain this rigid schedule all in the name
of performance---performance at work, in my
social and household responsibilities, and also
in my physical activities. Sleep is vital to optimal
cognitive and physical function in any indi-
vidual. It is especially important to recovery
in athletes, and an activity that many coaches
seem to overlook.
In the 1990 s when I played national sport,
our schedule was horrendous. I remember a
training camp where we had three training
sessions a day. We began at 4-5am and ended
at 10pm. By the time we showered and settled
into bed it was close to midnight, and we were
left with only 4-5 hours sleep. Needless to say
naps between training sessions were the norm...
and we all were exhausted.
I would like to believe that we have come
a long way since then, particularly as there
has been more research done on the influence
of sleep deprivation on athletic performance.
A study conducted on the Stanford University
Athletes need their ZZZs
men s basketball team
showed that players
who slept for 10
hours a day had bet-
ter performance in all
measures tested in the
study than those who
had less sleep. They
sprint times, better
improved mood and
alertness with less
Data indicate that
athletes have an increased need for sleep, as it is an
extremely important recovery strategy. Recommendations
are between 7-10 hours per day of which 80-90 percent
should be at night. Injured athletes as well as those
undergoing high training loads require more sleep in
order to aid in recovery, and recommendations can be
as high as 12 hours. The body heals itself during sleep;
it is not dormant. Without proper sleep quality and
quantity (sleep hygiene), the athlete may experience
reductions in cognitive and physical performance, reaction
times and emotional stability, as well as a range of meta-
bolic and immunologic processes.
However, despite this, research shows that athletes
still have difficulty getting the recommended amount
of sleep. One study reported that low sleep quantity
ranked as the most prominent problem among athletes
when they were asked to identify the main cause of
There is also poor sleep quality among athletes. Forty-
one elite South African athletes identified problems
falling asleep, and 60 percent indicated that they have
difficulty waking in the morning. In the study, 79 percent
of elite German athletes also reported problems falling
asleep before an important competition and 32 percent
experienced nighttime waking. This could indicate sleep
deprivation and poor sleep quality.
All of us have experienced the effects of sleep dep-
rivation, from the crankiness, to the lethargy, to the ease
with which we succumb to the common cold. It is even
worse for athletes, as they perform at the extremes of
their physical capabilities. Strategies to ensure good sleep
quality and quantity are vital to maximizing performance
and every coach should reinforce such habits.
The experts recommend five strategies to encourage
good sleep hygiene:
1. Ensure enough hours of sleep per day. Athletes
require more sleep to promote recovery and restoration
processes. Adolescents undergoing heavy training should
aim for 10 or more hours of sleep per day.
2. Establish a timing routine for going to bed and for
waking. Ensure that these times are the same each day.
This routine can improve sleep quality
3. Napping can help repay sleep debt, but it is important
to time naps properly to avoid sleepiness or "sleep
inertia" before training.
4. Engage in good proactive recovery strategies after
training or competition to eliminate soreness and dis-
comfort caused by exercise. These can include ice baths,
proper cool downs with stretching and massage, adequate
hydration and nutrition, which can all aid in psychological
and physical recovery and make the athlete more com-
fortable and therefore better able to sleep well.
5. Engage in psychological techniques that eliminate
worry and anxiety. Many athletes experience increased
psychological stresses before training or competition.
Techniques such as mental imagery and relaxation strate-
gies have been successfully used by many elite athletes
to help calm themselves and improve sleep quality.
It s late at night now, and inching up on my bedtime.
My routine is a strategy I use to improve sleep hygiene.
Tomorrow is another day of busy brain and body activity,
and although I am not an elite athlete, I must still
perform! Off to bed I go!
Carla Rauseo, DPT, C.S.C.S. is a Doctor of Physical
Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Special-
ist at Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited in San Juan.
Techniques such as mental
imagery and relaxation
strategies have been
successfully used to help
calm and improve sleep
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